Actual Size on the Miata forum
Congratulations to Dan on the selection of his resurrected Miata as the June Miata of the Month!
Dan's Miata was a record-setting road racer and a pioneering rally car. But for the past 8 years, it had only been a lawn ornament. After the success of the rally experiment, life moved on and the car simply sat in Dan's side yard. Until late 2009, when some friends convinced him that the car should be restored. The Miatas At Mazda Raceway event was chosen as a target date, and work began. The goal was to put the car back to its original Showroom Stock form.
There was one big problem. As part of the rally car experiment, the car had been re-shelled. In order to restore the car, the chassis needed to be reunited with everything else. Dan (obviously not a man who throws things away) still had the original shell. So the first step was to tear down the car completely and rebuild it. This is not a job for the faint of heart - and it was the second time this car had undergone the operation. The engine and transmission were actually installed in Dan's daily driver, so it had to be taken apart as well.
There was also the question of what livery to use. The first win had been on Yokohama A008 tires, and the car had the red hardtop. Shortly after, Mazda came through with a white hardtop at the same time Dan changed to BF Goodrich Comp T/A R1 tires. Since Dan was looking for a full restoration, he needed to find some 10-year-old race rubber. This is no simple task, so the tires he found would determine the restored look.
While the hunt was on for tires, the car was being reassembled. A number of parts such as stock springs and shocks, carpet, rubber brake lines and the like needed to be hunted down. Adding to the complication was the fact that the car was an extremely early pre-production model, and there were a number of small differences between it and the majority of Miatas. The dash wasn't textured, for example. More problematic were things such as a windshield wiper motor that had only been used for a few cars before getting changed. Many of the parts were originals, however. The wheels were the same ones that had been used back in 1991, and still had the "SSC 6" paint markings on them that had been used to identify them at the track.
Still, work continued. Ken Tooker, the original crew chief pitched in to help. The fact that the original crew chief and car builder were doing the restoration simplified things considerably - there was no need for exhaustive research to determine how things had been done! Ken even unearthed the original stencils used to make the letters.
After three months, a set of BFG tires was located just when the engine went in and the car was almost together. The paint was buffed up - still full of little dings and creases, but clean - and new decals were installed to replace those that had succumed to the elements, matching the later BFG decals.
At the big Miata event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the car was an honored guest. There weren't any hot laps to be had - not on tires that were at least a decade or more past their sell-by date - but having such an early production and significant Miata on hand added a real depth to the event. Dan promises that next year, he'll have a spare set of wheels with good rubber and the car will revisit Laguna Seca, almost exactly 20 years after setting a lap record there.
Will you be next?